92 - King of Animals: Porphyry

Porphyry fuses Platonism with Aristotelianism, exploring Aristotle’s logic and Plotinus’ philosophy. He also finds time to argue for vegetarianism.

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Further Reading: 

Primary texts

 • J. Barnes, Porphyry: Introduction (Oxford: 2003).

 • G. Clark, Porphyry: On Abstinence from Killing Animals (London: 2000).

• S.K. Strange,  Porphyry: On Aristotle’s Categories (London: 1992).

• K. Guthrie, Porphyry: Launching-Points to the Realm of Mind [=Sentences] (Grand Rapids: 1988).


• G. Clark, Body and Gender, Soul and Reason in Late Antiquity (Farnham: 2011). [contains several articles on Porphyry]

• S. Ebbesen, “Porphyry’s legacy to logic”, in R. Sorabji (ed.), Aristotle Transformed (London: 1990), 141–71.

• A.P. Johnson, Religion and Identity in Porphyry of Tyre: the Limits of Hellenism in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: 2013).

• G. Karamanolis, Plato and Aristotle in Agreement? Platonists on Aristotle from Antiochus to Porphyry (Oxford: 2006).

• G. Karamanolis and A. Sheppard, Studies on Porphyry (London: 2007).

• A. Smith, Porphyry’s Place in the Neoplatonic Tradition: a Study in Post-Plotinian Neoplatonism (The Hague: 1974).

Stanford Encyclopedia: Porphyry

Theodore Janiszewski's picture

Celsus the Platonist

I ran across another late antique philosopher who argued for the rationality of animals: Celsus, who lived about a century before Porphyry, wrote as follows (about ants, of all things):

"And when they meet one another they enter into conversation, for which reason they never mistake their way; consequently they possess a full endowment of reason, and some common ideas on certain general subjects, and a voice by which they express themselves regarding accidental things."

This is from Origen's Contra Celsum 4.84 (online here).

Peter Adamson's picture


Right, thanks - that's a good reference. I actually mention Celsus in another episode, the one on Origen.